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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1448 - January 09, 2007 - ISSN 1539-5065    3 of 3

eBay's China Competitor Alibaba Launches Ecommerce Software

By Ina Steiner
January 09, 2007

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Alibaba Group has launched Alisoft, an online business-software provider serving small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in China. Alibaba named Oliver Wang General Manager of the new company and said Alisoft will also assume responsibility for Alibaba's instant messaging services.

Alibaba competes with eBay and PayPal in China with its TaoBao online auction site and Alipay, its online-payment service. Alibaba also operates Alibaba.com, an online B2B marketplace for global and domestic China trade, and Yahoo China, a leading search engine and portal acquired from Yahoo Inc. in October 2005.

Alisoft came out of a project founded in 2004 to create products tailored to SMEs engaged in ecommerce, and will initially target Alibaba's reported 18 million SME customers. Jack Ma, CEO of the Alibaba Group, said in a press releae, "E-commerce is changing the way companies do business, from communications, to customer relationship management, to after sales services. Alisoft will provide easy solutions for customers to integrate e-commerce with their back-end systems." The Wall Street Journal reported that Alibaba plans to expand overseas and more than triple the size of its staff beyond mainland China (paid subscription required to view: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116826159650470136.html).

Alisoft's online, on-demand business services can be accessed through its website (Alisoft.com). It is currently offering five different on-demand applications:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Inventory management
  • Sales force management
  • Financial tools
  • Marketing information management

Alisoft's business software services come in three editions: global trade, domestic China trade and individual (C2C) trade. The company said that in less than one year of free testing, Alisoft's web based software services have attracted more than 500,000 active users and more than three million registered users. Alisoft will begin to charge a fee for some of its business software services in the first half of 2007.

In the U.S., many eBay sellers have relied for years on software - often custom-built or provided by third-party vendors - to manage their eBay listings. Some have migrated to sophisticated multi-channel software solutions. By providing Chinese companies with ecommerce software to improve efficiencies, Alibaba could potentially increase listings on its B2B and C2C websites.

And by controlling inventory management through a web-hosted solution, it may also give Alibaba influence over selling channels. Alibaba's Vice President of International Marketing Porter Erisman said the company will be make Alisoft available for use on multiple channels - Alisoft customers will not be locked into Alibaba and Taobao. When asked if that specifically includes eBay's new Chinese venture with Tom Online, Erisman said yes, "so long as their platform remains open for services like ours."

Alisoft will also assume responsibility for the Alibaba Group's real-time business communications tools. The Group's B2B and C2C instant messaging services will be merged into one service, under the name "Ali Wang Wang."

Alibaba estimates that among China's more than 40 million SMEs, less than 10 percent have adopted advanced software applications, far lower than the average of 60 percent in more mature western markets. Alibaba said Alisoft's web-based software model overcomes the challenges of software piracy, providing a sustainable business model while fostering innovation in the business software industry.

In related news, Pacific Epoch reported that Japanese firm Rakuten plans to launch an ecommerce site in China in 2007, according to Japan's Yomiuri newspaper and Reuters (http://www.pacificepoch.com/newsstories/85888_0_5_0_M).


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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